In the summer of 2012 Liverpool’s Tom Stalker was rated as the world’s number one amateur lightweight and skipper of the Team GB boxing squad at the London 2012 Olympics. Conversely, Chorley’s Jack Catterall was a student at Preston College who’d never ventured past the English ABA quarter-finals.
Two years on, the pair collides for the vacant WBO European light-welter title at Liverpool’s Echo Arena this weekend and, remarkably, the bookies can barely split them.
Whilst Stalker is more adept technically with his years of top level amateur experience, the 21 year old Lancastrian, known as ‘El Gato’, has ripped up all before him in the pros, culminating in a sensational demolition of Liverpool’s previously unbeaten Nathan Brough last July.
We’ll certainly discover a lot more about both principals when they swap leather in a real cross roads affair this weekend.
Watch Stalker v Catterall on the massive ‘Magnificent Seven’ card – which also features world rated super-flyweight Paul Butler, Liam Smith takes on Zoltan Sera for the Vacant WBA Continental Lightweight Championship, Kevin Satchell’s challenge for the European flyweight crown, the hugely anticipated domestic showdown between Derry Mathews and Adam Dingsdale, plus Chris Eubank Jnr.
Remaining tickets priced at £40, £50, £75, £100 and £150 are available from the Liverpool Echo Arena Box Office on 0844 8000 400 or www.echoarena.com
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Boxing writer Glynn Evans found young Catterall brimming with confidence when he called to discuss the riveting showdown.
Your one punch second round blow out of former World Junior medallist Nathan Brough last time was a huge upset. How did you execute it?
I had a full nine week camp to plan for Brough. Going in, I felt very, very strong. I’d been handling far heavier guys in sparring so I think I have a strength advantage over anybody at 10stone.
The plan was actually to win the rounds and systematically break Nathan down with body shots later in the fight. All my previous four stoppage wins as a pro had come from body shots.
I was very conscious not to rush and make mistakes because obviously Nathan is a very credible fighter. He’s a 6ft 1in tall southpaw who really times that long right jab so I couldn’t just run at him. We expected the first two or three rounds would be very difficult. Lee drilled it into me that I’d need to stay patient.
But we’d sparred previously and I felt far stronger than Nathan so was very confident that I’d beat him if we both had the 8oz gloves on. So it proved.
Surprisingly, Nathan brought himself to me. I didn’t need to go looking. I clipped him right on the button and immediately felt the snap on the end of the punch. I knew from his eyes that I’d connected clean and he weren’t getting up. It was the best shot I’ve landed in my boxing career…….until the next fight!
Rewind two years and Stalker was captaining Team GB at the 2012 Olympics whilst you were still to debut as a pro and had never made it past the English ABA quarter finals. It’s amazing how you’ve caught him up so quickly.
Yeah, but people really have to realise that amateur boxing and professional boxing are two entirely different sports. Back in the amateurs I had loads of distractions. I was studying at college and had plenty of other stuff going on. Boxing wasn’t my sole focus. Now I totally live the life.
Thanks to Lee and his association with several top international fighters over in the States, I’ve been privileged to have been actively involved in whole camps for world title fights, sparring great champions like Joan Guzman and Argenis Mendis. I have to say that the methods Lee preaches, really suits my style.
When Frank (Warren) and Lee gave me this opportunity I jumped at it. I’ve don’t have anywhere near the amateur pedigree of a Tom Stalker or a Nathan Brough but lately it’s all coming together for me as a pro. The timing is right for me.
You’ve yet to travel beyond round eight. Is that a concern going into your first 12 rounder?
Not at all. Tom would be horrible to box over just six or eight rounds but the longer fight will certainly work to my favour.
My coach Lee will play a huge role, as always. He’s valued far more highly overseas than in the UK but he’s not bothered about publicity.
He’s got so much knowledge and we’ve been focussed on game plans every step of the camp. I’m very comfortable with him. He’s always very calm and straight forward. He’s got a very good eye from the corner and often sees shots I don’t.
As I say, I’ve been in and around four or five world championship camps with other fighters that Lee coaches. I do all the same sparring and roadwork. I’m constantly in great shape.
For this fight, we’ve prepared at home, at Ray Hatton’s gym in Stockport. I took a fortnight off after stopping Brough but I’ll have had nine solid weeks and I’ve been sparring Cecil McCalla, a 19-0 welterweight from Baltimore. I’m more than ready for a long fight or short.
What’s your analysis of opponent Tom Stalker?
Though Tom was rated number one in the world in the amateurs I’ve never been impressed with him as a pro so far. His style isn’t really suited to the pros and he’s struggled to adapt.
When the match was first proposed I didn’t hesitate for a second. It’s exactly the type of test I need to progress forward in the sport. Once Lee said he felt I was ready, I just went for it.
Tom clearly trains very hard and consequently has a very high work rate. He can throw lots of shots early on. But, even at six round level, he blows his tank and gasses. Unlike me, he’s not really hurt anyone of note in the pros yet.
Obviously he’s got plenty of skill but not as much as me. When we’ve shared a gym, he studies me, tries to learn off me. He’s got a good chin but he’s needed it because he regularly gets caught clean, lifting his head. He squares up a lot and makes mistakes. If I’m patient, I’m confident that I’ll be able to pick the right punches and capitalise.
When I shift through my gears I’m far more explosive than Tom and, if I hurt you, I’ve a vicious finishing instinct.
How do you expect the fight to pan out and why will you prevail?
I think our styles will contrast to provide a great fight for the fans. I’ll be looking to win every round clearly. My greater strength should definitely pay dividends in a longer fight. He’s turned 30 now.
Though I certainly won’t go swinging for a quick knockout, I expect to win by stoppage in the later rounds. I’m younger, hungrier, a level above him. I’m very confident in my ability.